Help with new housing

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Posts: 22
Joined: Sun May 26, 2019 4:37 pm
Location: Missouri

So after my first successful year hosting martins, I've decided to upgrade my housing. With my first attempt last year, I had an ASY pair and two SY pairs nest in a barn style house, an a SY pair nest in a gourd. The barn style house is just one of those cheap houses I bought at Orschelns, and I converted it to a 6 room instead of 12 to increase the compartment size. I plan to leave the gourd rack as is, but I'm planning on replacing the cheap barn house with a 12 compartment goliad system. My concern is that if I replace the barn house, will it deter the martins that nested in the barn house last season from nesting this year since the goliad looks so much different. I guess I can always put the barn house back up for a season or two until they get accustomed to the new housing, but I'd much rather scrap it since it's so cheaply built. Any thoughts or advice would be much appreciated! Thanks.
Posts: 1435
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2010 8:04 am
Location: Round Rock, TX

I would leave it as is for now, and let your colony grow a little. If you at least double your occupancy this year, I would change it out next year and convert the old barn into a sparrow trap.
Good luck!!!
7 pair
25 fledged
Posts: 891
Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2017 11:15 am
Location: Corpus Christi Tx
Martin Colony History: 2016- didnt know anything about martins, put up an all wrong house in 2016 and had two come by and inspect all the cavities. Left soon after not to return. Learned what i could on PMCA made adjustments and next year was successful.
2017- 5 pair. 15 fledged
2018- 18 pair. 85 fledged
2019- 17 pair. 81 fledged
2020- 25 pair. 111 fledged
Home colony: mix natural gourds, enlarged compartment house. All SREH.
Satelite colony: Oso Bay Preserve: 12 gourds: PMCA excluder gourds, 6 room trio mino castle with enlarged compartments.
2019: Visitors
2020: 3 pair, 11 fledged
PMCA member

Sounds like the ASY pair recruited the other pairs, your situation was like mine the first year. One ASY pair at first, other martins followed. Of the 6 cavities in the house, 4 were taken, and near by I had 4 excluder pair chose a gourd. The next year the martins went to the house first and then immediately gravitated to the gourds. house filled up, gourds too almost at the same pace.

While I am always recommending improvements, its a fine line and good question posed...upgrade at the risk of losing martins? Or leave it as is one more season and build your colony a little more before the change. Did you have many visitors checking the house/gourds while chicks were fledging? Your sucessful pairs should be bonded to the site and return this year. Good chance of them returning and recruiting more birds.

With the opportunity for them to choose the gourds the barn style house may not make a difference...the Goliad is a good Martin house makes management much easier. Are you going to offer crescent openings? I trust the house isn't in danger of falling apart, or pose a risk as is? If it is, then go for it but if you think it will last one more season then Id give it one more season, as long as its in good shape but just one more. Its a smaller colony at the moment and any drastic change may deter them.

Just my two cents.
Wish you all the best this season,
PMCA member, believer in nest checks, venting, SREH and pest/predator protection.
Posts: 498
Joined: Thu May 26, 2016 9:23 am
Location: tennesse
Martin Colony History: Started colony in 2014. First pair to stay and raise young in 2018.

I’ll give you my two cents worth and just to let you know I’ve only had Martin’s for two consecutive years had one pair and visitors the first year last year I had about 10 pair. But my thought was can’t you go ahead and put the Goliad up and leave the barn as well and maybe the birds will gravitate over to the Goliad this year and you can take the barn style house down next year. Just a thought have a great season.

JHCox Heiskell Tennessee
Posts: 761
Joined: Fri Mar 11, 2011 1:09 pm
Location: Manitoba/Altona
Martin Colony History: six pair in 2014, have grown to 52 pairs in 2017.

How many gourds will you be offering this year? I don't think replacing the house will be a problem as long as it is in the same location.
2011- first year trying, a few visitors.
2012-One ASY pair, raised two young, lots of subby visitors. So thankfull.
2013-daily subby visits.
2014-Six SY pairs
2015-18 pair, 83 fledglings
2016-36 pair, 147 fledglings
2017-52 pairs, 192 fledglings.
2018-60 pair, 246 fledglings.
2019-59 pair, 238 fledglings.
2020-62 pair.
Posts: 22
Joined: Sun May 26, 2019 4:37 pm
Location: Missouri

Thanks for all the replies thus far! The barn house I have, if I'm not mistaken, is a S&K brand house....12 unit converted to six with crescent holes. I had eight bo11 gourds out last year, and I plan to have 12 out this spring. They too had crescent holes with tunnels.

I have thought about putting the old house out along with the goliad and the gourd rack. I don't think the old house is in danger of falling apart, but I'd hate for it to be full of martins and then something happen to it because it's such a cheaply built house. We had some wicked storms last year, and I honestly can't believe it held up with some of the winds we had. I eventually lowered both the house and the gourd rack down to about 9 feet, and left them at that height the rest of the season. The martins were already nesting, and it didn't seem to bother them at all.

I have a very old, established colony about a quarter mile (at most) from me that is in horrible shape. They have six houses, each with 24 compartments I think. One very small fly way and maple trees that have grown 50 feet tall within 30 to 40 feet on three sides of the houses. Zero sparrow control, and they still have probably 20 pairs remaining. My hope is to lure some of these pairs to my site so they have better chances for survival, and I think my chances are pretty good because I had about 10 different martins (3 being ASY birds) show up the last week of June and the first week of July and hang around the rest of the season.

I guess my main concern with the old house is it's durability. If I get the number of birds I think I may get this year, I would just hate for it to be filled up and then get shredded in a wind storm because it's a cheap house.
Bird Brain
Posts: 169
Joined: Wed Feb 10, 2016 9:22 am
Location: Highland Village, TX
Martin Colony History: 2017-nothing
2018-1 visitor
2020-the most visitors/activity by far after making many site improvements. Unsuccessful SY Male visited for 2 weeks.

Not just storms you have to worry about. An owl can rip the plastic doors off that cheap barn in a second, exposing all of them. That would devastate your colony. I think they will appreciate the upgrade.
Last edited by Bird Brain on Wed Jan 22, 2020 6:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Why do Americans only flee blue states? Why don't Americans flee red states?
4th Gen Martin Fan
Posts: 1493
Joined: Thu Jul 04, 2013 1:19 pm
Location: TN/Collierville
Martin Colony History: I have been exposed to purple martin sounds in utero when my mother went out to get my father away from his martin colony.
I played around the martin colony every summer and watched as my father maintained his colony. In the late 50's until the 70's he did not notice European Starlings in south Texas.
When old enough, I helped maintain his colony. My primary task was eliminating English House Sparrows with a 1956 Benjamin 317 .177 air rifle.
When I settled into my own home, I started my first colony with an original Trio Castle and Trio Grandpa. When I moved again, I did not put up any martin houses. Frustration with European Starlings in the Southeast US was overwhelming.
Found PMCA Forum and learned about modern enlarged compartments and SREHs.
Inherited my father's last martin house, a Trio Grandma, modified it to modern specifications and have had good results since then.

I have been lucky but everything has always been stacked in my favor.
I grew up in Texas where the highest concentration of purple martins nest in North America. I now live in a suburb of Memphis, TN next to the Mississippi River and one of the largest flyways for bird migration in North America.
If that were not enough, there has always been neglected purple martin colonies near where I set up superior purple martin housing that attracts martins away from the neglected housing. I first try to help the landlord of the neglected martin colony improve their situation and generally am rebuffed. After their colony dwindles away, they call me and ask for help that I offered from the beginning.
So especially during the off season, I will change things as needed and the martins return each year to accept the new improved housing. I have even put up improved housing in a better location at an existing colony and the martins have accepted the changes.
But bottom line, others have given great advise to consider.
Firm believer in HOSP/EUST Control, Enlarged Compartments, SREHs, Pole Predator Guards, Owl/Hawk Guards, Mite/Parasite Control, Housing Insulation, and Vents for Compartment Cooling.
PMCA Member.
Posts: 223
Joined: Sun Mar 27, 2016 10:43 am
Location: Sugarcreek, Ohio
Martin Colony History: 2016 First Yr.

I would change that house in a min. especially with that non kept neighbor of your's thats not tending to his'll fill up with his if you take care of them, feed some egg shells and that'll entice them right on over.
2016 - 1st Yr. 14 Compartments 4 Active Nests 9 fledged, 2.25 Fledged per Active Nest
2017 - 2nd Yr. 36 Compartments 18 Active Nests 65 Fledged, 3.61 Fledged per Active Nest
2018 - 3rd Yr. 54 Compartments 43 Active Nests 169 Fledged, 3.93 Fledged per Active Nest
2019 - 4th Yr. 108 Compartments 67 Active Nests 209 Fledged, 3.12 Fledged per Active Nest
2020 - 5th Yr. 108 Compartments 72 Active Nests 243 Fledged, 3.38 Fledged per Active Nest
Posts: 14
Joined: Fri Aug 16, 2019 10:36 pm
Location: Augusta, KS

I had the same barn style house for 1st 2 years. Held up to some strong KS storms/winds. Martins loved did the starlings that squeezed in and destroyed the eggs and scared off the adults. Sparrows loved it too. After seeing broken yolk all over nest box I ordered the Goliad and Martins checked it out and moved in with no problem. I use the barn now as a trap away from colony. I've seen starlings try to get in the Goliad but couldn't. Last year I put up the Gemini rack with gourds so birds have a choice of nesting sites. My Goliad got business 1st but some birds chose the gourds. Sparrows moved in repeatedly (only to "lose" their eggs) :lol:
Posts: 22
Joined: Sun May 26, 2019 4:37 pm
Location: Missouri

Thanks for all the replies!

So my plan is to go ahead and put up the old house as well as the new goliad house I've got ordered. I think what I'll do is let whatever martins decide to nest in the old house get a good start, and then I'll just drop it down to 9" like I did last year. That really seemed to help during the high winds we had last year, and the martins didn't seem to mind at all. I've went back and forth on this for a while now, but the worry of losing my returning martins because of different housing won out. Last year was my first year, and I only had four pairs, so I don't want to risk it.

I do have another question for the more experienced on here. Will a S&K tri tel pole handle 12 bo eleven gourds? I had six up last year on that style of pole, and it did just fine. I've been contemplating getting another hub and adding six more below the top six gourds. I'm just worried that it might overload such a light system.

Any thoughts?
Posts: 14
Joined: Fri Aug 16, 2019 10:36 pm
Location: Augusta, KS

Sounds good. I wanted to show a nest tray I made for my Goliad. Just went by dimensions of nest box. I haven't built things in past so some trial and error and rebuilding went on. Made out of foam 1st year but Starlings made mince meat out of section by door. Changed to wood the 2nd year.
Dave Duit
Posts: 1854
Joined: Tue Nov 25, 2003 2:02 pm
Location: Iowa / Nevada
Martin Colony History: In 2020, 60 pair with 285 fledged youngsters. 83 total cavities available, 58 Troyer Horizontal gourds and 4 modified deep trio metal house units, 1 fallout shelter, owl cages around all units. Martin educator and speaker. President and founder of the Iowa Purple Martin Organization. Please visit and join.

Most new landlords will eventually upgrade all their equipment, including housing. Keep in mind that as your colony grows, you will inevitably attract hawks and owls to the dinner plate. My way of saying to add owl cages and guards. I started with one grandpa style 12 compartment metal house and was quickly told to expand the small compartments into a larger 6 compartment dwelling. Eventually, I expanded to a four pod of grandpa metal 6 compartment houses along with 60 Troyer Horizontal gourds with all housing surrounded with owl fence 4x4 inch mesh size.
Mite control, heat venting, predator protection and additional feeding during bad weather add up to success.
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